>The All Hat and No Cattle Party: Bush Attempts to Lead Without Moving to the Front

>Good luck trying to find any regular unleaded gasoline in the state of Nevada less than $4.00 per gallon. [NVgas] A person might even need more luck to find politicians in the Grand Oil Party willing to take the issue head on – without resorting to bromides predicated on “psychological” impacts, or “just wait until 2028 and things will be better” pontifications. Equally baffling is the Bush Administration’s willingness to saber rattle at Iran, which only serves to make the oil markets ever more nervous. The Bush-McCain crowd appear to want their “Great War on Terror”, but without facing the harsher ramifications and results of it.

President Bush has tried to make the case that his “War on Terror” is comparable to the great conflicts of the 20th century. His speech on March 19, 2004 definitely had that ring to it: “The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies — they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East, and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror. There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by early, united, and decisive action.” [WHPR]

However, there was, and remains, a wide gap between the President’s rhetoric and his demonstrated willingness to take steps comparable to his predecessors in regard to the Home Front. Not only has he not “acted” like this was the global war he himself described, he hasn’t even taken the steps deemed necessary by former Presidents Nixon and Carter during Oil Crises of 1973 and 1979. Additionally, he’s not done anything comparable to FDR’s leadership during World War II.

Mr. Bush wants to “be a war president” with all the powers accruing in that definitional framework, without really “being” a war president with the responsibilities associated with guiding the nation through a legitimate crisis. President Bush appears to want to play the role, but without taking any steps that would even inconvenience anyone much less take action reminiscent of actions taken by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. The current Oil Crisis is a case in point.

The present situation absolutely isn’t the “Nation’s First Rodeo” when it comes to energy problems. Presidents Roosevelt, Nixon, and Carter addressed these issues far more concretely than the present occupant of the Oval Office.

During World War II it became obvious that voluntary gasoline demand reduction wasn’t working, and by the Spring of 1942 seventeen eastern states had some type of mandatory rationing in place. In December of that year there were nationwide mandatory controls. [EWH] If a driver had an “A” classification the ration was 4 gallons per week, a “B” classification was worth 8, “C” ration status applied to doctors, ministers, mail carriers and railroad workers. The Office of Price Administration handled the classifications and stamps. [STC] There was a “T” sticker for truckers and “x” for members of Congress and VIPs. [AmesHist] [Exhibits] The speed limit was 35 miles per hour.

When OPEC announced embargoes of crude to the United States in 1973 the price of crude quadrupled to $12 per barrel. The national average for a gallon of gasoline increased from $0.38.5 in May 1973 to $0.55.1 cents in June 1974. The embargo was lifted in 1974 but the effects lingered on. [Wik] President Nixon signed the “55 mph” speed limit law in 1974. [Wik]

The second “oil crisis” came as a result of the U.S. backing of the Shah of Iran, and the Carter Administration began a “phased decontrol of oil prices on April 5, 1979. Crude oil prices increased from $15.85 to $39.50 – the highest “real price” until May 7, 2008. Americans lined up at gas stations. The dismantling of price controls established during the Nixon Administration continued under Carter and was completed during the Reagan tenure. Carter advocated energy saving and conservation measures. Americans were advised to turn down thermostats, install solar panels, and make other household lifestyle adjustments. [Wik]

Instead of having the courage to discuss the implementation of speed controls like President Nixon, Mr. Bush has never broached the subject. Unlike FDR who had a very real global conflict with very real standing armies in combat around the planet, Mr. Bush has not called for any sacrifice on the part of American citizens – not even so much as a “war bond” campaign to pay for his militaristic adventures. Unlike President Carter he has not provided a personal example of energy conservation for average Americans to emulate.

Americans were willing (although often begrudgingly so) to reduce their gasoline “for the boys” during World War II. Nevadans tried some gamesmanship with the Nixon Administration’s 55 mph speed limit but included an automatic reversion in the speed limit statute. We demonstrated that as a nation we could make fuel use decisions more wisely when previous Administrations explained the necessity. The Bush Administration has offered no such explanations. All that appears to be emanating from the current Oval Office are more tax and lease holding breaks for the oil giants – without any call for the American public to make any sort of sacrifice, or indeed even any modest life style adjustments.

The Bush-McCain perspective gives every appearance that the Republicans want credit for fighting a “global war on terror” without calling upon the American public to make any serious sacrifices toward that end; and, to “take action” during this oil crisis without really adjusting our lifestyles or our consumption of fuel. There’s an obvious pattern here, most often summarized as “all talk and no action,” or less generously, as the drug-store cowboy – all hat and no cattle.

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